August E-News DAP: DUCA Update July 2021

A number of deacons are involved in helping to run Op Shops, providing second hand clothes and other goods to those in need.  Not only is this a good way to recycle clothes, it also provides a way of interactions happening between the church and the community. In some places, there has been an increasing focus on not only considering the number of relationships a church develops, but also focusing on the depth of those relationships.

Some Op Shops have introduced cafes so that there are opportunities to deepen relationships. This cafe space allows the Op Shop volunteers to listen to the stories of the customers, offering care and support if needed. One such example is St Martins Foothills in Perth, Western Australia where deacon Rev Sophie Lizares.  Monthly activities such as cooking demonstrations are a highlight.  

Another example of an Op Shop that is fulfilling a community need is in a rural town called Hamilton, Victoria. The deacon in this Presbytery of Western Victoria is Rev Angie Griffin.  During the Covid 19 restrictions, the community responded by donating a huge amount of clothes.  This led to trying to manage the available space in the Op shop. They found that in trying to fit more clothes into the shop, they were not catering for people with disabilities. However, they quickly responded to the problem. 

Floor markings now allow volunteers to know aisle boundaries and ensure walkways are maintained, while measures have been introduced to ensure adequate turning room for customers using wheelchairs and walking frames. Volunteers will also be encouraged to be more proactive in offering assistance to those who may need it. “The shop has grown so much because of wonderful generosity from the community and we must ensure it is appropriate for everyone to access because people from all walks of life come in,” says Angie.

Synod of Victoria and Tasmania disability inclusion advocate Rev (Deacon) Dr Andy Calder was pleased with the way the staff addressed a difficult situation, showing how the issue of disability inclusion was an ongoing learning process for everyone involved in the Uniting Church in Australia. He says the Church has strong policies around disability inclusion and a long history of being committed to equal opportunity and equal access for all members.

“We have a disability action plan for the 2019-22 period and that gives us a strong foundation for action,” Andy says. “We are the only church I know of,  that has a disability action plan in place and, because religious organisations aren’t exempt from complying with the Disability Discrimination Act, we have developed these plans over a period of time. This is our third plan and we lodge each one with the Human Rights Commission. They are a tangible expression of our commitment.”

While great progress has been made, Andy suggests there is still much work to be done around disability inclusion. “There is no doubt we have made progress in the last generation or so, but we still have a long way to go,” he says.

Earlier this year,  an International Workers Memorial Day service was held at Pilgrim Uniting Church in Adelaide, South Australia, with guest speaker Rev Deacon Liz Dyson and Rev Deacon Sandy Boyce. About 40 families attended whose lives have been impacted by the deaths of their loved ones.  Some of the stories which were shared were of bullying and harassment in the workplace, which has led to suicide. This service has been an annual event for many years and provides a way for grieving families to come together, as well as raising awareness of these issues. 

As I write this, South Australia is just entering a 7 day lockdown due to Covid 19.  Other states – New South Wales and Victoria are already in a lockdown period. As deacons, may we remain flexible to be able to serve in whatever way we are able, in our changing situations. 

Rev Deacon Christa Megaw


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